Briefcase of slain civil rights leader is found

Moore's files discovered in Fla. barn will be returned to daughter who lives in Md.

February 04, 2007|By Laurin Sellers | Laurin Sellers,Orlando Sentinel

MIMS, Fla. -- The briefcase of Harry T. Moore, missing for more than a half-century, has been found in an abandoned Brevard County, Fla., barn and will be returned tomorrow to the slain civil rights leader's daughter.

The leather case, filled with newspaper clippings and letters urging officials to investigate the mistreatment of blacks, was discovered about a half-mile from where a bomb destroyed the family's home on Christmas night 1951, killing Moore and his wife, Harriette.

A member of the North Brevard Historical Society, scouring the area for artifacts a few months ago, stumbled onto the satchel, which should have been stored in a property room at the county courthouse.

"Nobody knows, or at least nobody is saying, how it ended up in that barn," said Moore's daughter, Evangeline, by phone during a news conference at Attorney General Bill McCollum's office in Orlando.

Evangeline Moore, who lives in New Carrollton and was featured in The Sun in October, is traveling to Florida tomorrow to retrieve the briefcase.

Moore has already pored over copies of some of the documents that the attorney general's office shipped to her.

"When they called and told me they had found his briefcase in a cow barn, I can tell you it was the eeriest feeling I've ever had," said Moore, 76, who pushed for years to have her parents' unsolved case reopened.

Moore said she thinks that the discovery of the briefcase proves that local law enforcement were either involved in her parents' deaths or wanted to make sure that no one was arrested.

She said her father's briefcase was turned over to then-Brevard County Sheriff Bill Williams the night of the bombing.

"Now I have concrete evidence of just how involved local officials were," she said.

"It was not supposed to be anywhere but the courthouse, and obviously somebody gave it to somebody so it would never be discovered. It was a conspiracy, and I've known that for 55 years."

Last year, former Attorney General Charlie Crist, who was later elected Florida's governor, named four now-dead Ku Klux Klan members as the killers. In doing so, he said, he was closing the case on one of the biggest remaining mysteries from America's tumultuous civil-rights era.

Laurin Sellers writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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